Friday, March 22, 2013

Poetry Friday: Morning

I recently finished reading Parker Palmer's wonderful book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life.  Palmer explains that in his teaching workshops he asks teachers to write two reflections. One is to be about a time when things were going so well in the classroom that they knew deep inside that they were born to teach. The second is about a time when things were going so badly that they wished they had never been born.

That second description might strike you as a bit histrionic, but that's not how it struck me. When I read that, I thought, perfect. When my teaching is going badly, that is exactly how it feels to me.

And I just got done with a class like that.

Palmer's descriptions of things going badly are more on the lines of nobody's answering my question, oh no, it's quiet it's quiet.... I've been there, but in middle school, not often. Quietness is not my issue, but racket. Today I tried to let the eighth graders discuss a bake sale for the last twenty minutes of class. It degenerated into a mess of yelling at one another, in which I removed one student from the room (only one -- a victory!), and yes, wished I had never been born. Once I regained control and ended the period calmly and sent them to their next hour and then cried a little bit by myself in my classroom, I thought back to this morning, and the calm of it, and the words of this song that I was singing in my mind as we sat and ate breakfast at our outdoor cafeteria at school.
I remember singing this song at my first school when I was five or six years old. I loved all the words, but especially the third stanza: "Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning." As a small child, I loved that sense of ownership of the new day, in which anything could happen. By this time of the day, things are broken in another sense of the word, but it makes me feel better to think back to those first moments this morning, and to know that tomorrow will be a new morning, and that Monday will be a new week and a clean slate. Another chance to face the eighth graders, and maybe this time it will be one of those moments when I know I was born to teach.

Here are all the words, written by English poet Eleanor Farjeon and made very famous by Cat Stevens, or Yusuf Islam, as he is now known:

Morning Has Broken
Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlight from heaven.
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise every morning;
God's recreation of the new day.

Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.


Diane Mayr said...

I think Eleanor Farjeon needs to be rediscovered!

You milkmaids in the hedgerows,
You lazy lovely crew,
Get up and churn the buttercups
And skim the milkweed, do!

jama said...

Wow, didn't realize she had written those words. Cool.

Sorry you had a bad day -- hope you have a "I was born to teach" day soon!

Linda B said...

I think I will share your post today with a young colleague who has had a very bad year. Changing from 8 year olds to middle schoolers has not been an easy move. You will understand I know. This is of course beautiful. I taught my children this song when they were young, Ruth. It's a favorite, a happy, lilting song for sure. We played all the Cat Stevens albums when they were growing up. (I wonder if they remember.) Thanks, and best wishes for getting at those 8th graders. I've been there!

Violet N. said...

Oh Ruth, I was so there (as in wishing myself away from that classroom) during my first year of classroom teaching, and my second, and some of the years following. All my respect and regard goes to you and your courage to hang in there.

I have an old record of Cat Stevens singing that song (I keep a shelf of vinyl and go back to it once in a while). But I didn't know Eleanor Farjeon had written it. Thanks 'teacher.'

Barbara Etlin said...

I, too, was surprised that Cat Stevens didn't write those lyrics. I'll have to check out Elenor Farajeon.

Looking at the sunny Saturday morning, I thought something similar. Although yesterday was cold and grey today is a new beautiful day--a chance for a fresh start.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

So lovely to listen to this, music and lyrics, thanks to you this dreary New Jersey morning. My spirits have been listed thanks to you, Ruth!

Steve Peterson said...

Like others, I had no idea Cat Steven's didn't write those words.

I've had those days you describe, too. Ugh. Sometimes morning breaks to a new day; sometimes the same day seems to repeat itself! Early this year, I had several in a row that Eventually, though, the fever broke and we moved on.

Mary Lee said...

I had a "never been born" kind of day on Friday. Well, it was more like a "chose the wrong profession" kind of day. Good thing we've got a week of spring break so I can readjust my attitude and get my passion back. Thanks for the poem/song. That's a favorite from my past. Calming.